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Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an attempt to achieve a higher turnout in the 2018 Russian presidential election, is offering debt relief to 42 million Russian citizens. Polling has shown low interest in the upcoming lopsided political contest and the Kremlin is angling to achieve a 70% turnout to show support for the Russian leader who is assured a fourth term in office.
A Levada poll published earlier this month revealed that fewer than 60 percent of Russians plan to vote in the March 2018 elections, wrote The Moscow Times. Officials are hoping for Putin to garner 70% of the vote.
“The draft bill was passed by State Duma deputies Wednesday, less than a week after Putin promised to write off some 41 billion rubles ($700 million) in accumulated debt for 42 million Russians at his annual press conference last Thursday. If passed, the bill will write off individual transport, land and property tax debt accumulated since 2015. It will also provide debt relief to three million entrepreneurs as well as veterans and pensioners,” wrote The Moscow Times.
“We could have probably waited, but our task is to make sure it is implemented by Jan. 1,” said State Duma deputy Andrei Makarov.
The lead up to the contest next year has been carefully orchestrated by Moscow. Opposition candidates, such as anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalnay, have been long marginalized and sidelined in an attempt to show vast support for the current Russian president.
Navalny has been attempting to legally fight his exclusion from the coming election but has so far been unsuccessful in the Russian courts. He has been arrested, detained, and physically attacked. Earlier in the year, Navalny traveled to Europe for eye surgery after being drenched in a caustic chemical which burned his left eye.
The debt relief offered by Putin shows the concern in the Russian leadership over the loss of prosperity for many Russians since the annexation of Crimea, and resulting Western sanctions.